Dual Selves

Lately, I’ve been doing breathing meditations, meaning breath work. Although all meditation incorporates the inhale and the exhale, breath work is more about rhythms and patterns of the breath as a way to enter a more present state. As I work through my various forms of recovery, I find presence is key to stabilize and balance me internally so that I don’t get lost in the flurry of changes.

Photo by Mindaugas Vitkus on Unsplash

Through this breath work I ask myself, who am I today? Who am I in this moment? Am I living an authentic life? The concept of dual selves has finally reached me through one of my books or podcasts or various consumption methods, and it hits a nerve. We protect and hide our inner self, and share something else with the world: a shadow self.

Today I’m asking myself when and where do I let my inner, authentic self out to breathe?

  1. Walks. I used to walk in Griffith Park a few days each week, usually in the early mornings before it became crowded. I knew every trail backward and forward, and I usually spent those hours with my headphones on but with no sound. I mentally mulled over conversations, plans, and lists. Now that I’ve moved away from the park I tread the suburban streets of the valley, but I still have that closeness with myself. There’s an openness, a secret conversation and acceptance that’s not busy judging.
  2. Wonder. Gazing at a moon, whatever phase it’s in, or a sky splattered with stars. Listening to live music and to the way instruments connect and make a cohesive sound. Learning about the world around us or the years before us at a museum. Swimming in the ocean or a mountain lake.
  3. Connecting with my kids. Talking about the world, and sharing fears, joy, apprehension. Discussing a current event and learning their opinions. Realizing they’ve outgrown me for some particular aspect of motherhood. Having my kids see me for who I am beyond their mother.
  4. Movement. This is different than #1 because it’s more about moving my physical body versus my mind processing and soaking in my natural surroundings. This means dance, yoga, running, cycling, lifting weights, and most definitely hiking.
  5. Journaling and making daily lists. I don’t really want to include this one but if I’m being honest with myself I have to. Journaling isn’t the same as writing creatively, but it does give me a space to get the monkey chatter down and a little less so in my head. The daily list helps me feel organized, and when I’m organized it eases my natural stress and anxiety. This opens me up to make space for me.
  6. Writing creatively. I’ve been working actively to unblock my creativity, and I don’t just sit and freely write yet. It’s taking discipline. But when I do tap into the flow of writing, there’s little that can feel closer to who I’m meant to be at my core.

And conversely…when am I not the real me? Or when does my shadow self rise?

  1. Substances. When I am trying to be the life of the party aka drinking, drugs, risky behavior. Going to a party and overextending the small part of me that is my extrovert self.
  2. Certain people. When I spend time with people who are very self-involved. Needy, need to be heard, don’t ask about me, don’t listen, who have an agenda, who can’t be alone or in a quiet place. There is too much one-sided giving that happens.
  3. Corporate life. In a corporate situation that’s dry of creativity. Listening and pretending to care about making money, profitability, office politics, employee advancement, work ethic as it relates to corporate America.
  4. Writing with an audience in mind. When I write with a readership in mind, an audience who is demanding a plot or exciting events, full of judgment and critiques. When Cynthia, my inner critic, arrives I start to listen to her and my writing gets bland and generalized. My voice gets squashed, strangled, and lost.
  5. Being away from nature. When I was a child I spent so much time in the outdoors. My parents were constantly taking my brother and I camping, nearly every weekend during the summer months. When I lived in Northern California and I would escape to the Headlands, I would feel something physically change inside me. A softening, a release, a recognition. For the 6 years I’ve lived in LA, besides my Griffith Park walks, I’ve been missing a greater connection to Mother Nature. There is too much traffic, concrete, strip malls, gasoline, and noise.

Parsing out where and when I feel real helps me understand what to gravitate toward, what to say yes to and when to say no. Not that I’ll get it right every time, but I’ll get a little closer to letting my authentic self out into the sunlight.



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Tess Williamson

Tess Williamson

Morning job: writing, meditating, yoga. Day job: teaching kids how to collaborate and write stories. Night job: reading + watching stories. Always job: mama.